How to get to
Tana Toraja, the heart of Sulawesi

Getting to the heart of the Torajan region can be a long journey, but what you’ll witness is definitely worth the effort!


Coming into Sulawesi after travelling through Java had us a bit confused:
«Is this even the same country?»
Our third stop, (and second island) of indonesia felt like travelling to a different part of the world!


After our intense day at Mount Bromo (read all about it here), we headed back to Surabaya where we’d take our second internal flight to change islands.

Luckily we found a shuttle bus to the airport from the Bungurashi bus terminal right away, and pretty cheap! Dont listen to taxi drivers, they’ll charge you ten times the price and won’t get you there any faster. The shuttle was just 50.000 IDR (3€)!

Tell the shuttle driver which airline you are flying and he’ll let you know when it’s time to hop off. Ours was Sriwijaya Airlines (on the black list of airlines for europeans), on terminal 1b. And to no surprise, our flight was delayed 2 hours! You can’t really ask for much in a flight that cost us only 56€ per person, booked in advance on Skyscanner.

Made the most of the delay by having some amazingly spicy dinner and finding wifi in one of the restaurants inside the boarding area.

INDONESIAN CHARACTER. For the second time since we arrived in Indonesia, we were offered extra leg room seats on the plane at no cost and without even asking for it. We are quite tall, and were really grateful for it.

Indonesian kindness and character at its best.

We couldn’t really tell if the flight was good or bad, since we slept through it all! That’s what a day on Mt. Bromo will do to you, but it’s definitely worth it!



Makkassar airport somehow compensated for all the previous kindness… 🙁

Late at night and pouring rain, we’d booked a hotel half way between the airport and the bus terminal to which we needed to go in a few hours: Dalton Hotel.
However, making our way to the hotel proved to be harder than we thought. We were aware (from reading other blogs) that transport from the airport was not the easiest thing to get. Tens of taxi drivers line up and harrass you once you exit the terminal.
Don’t bother asking around for a taxi with a meter, even if one of them is willing to turn it on for you, their aggressive colleagues will talk him out of it and leave you out of options. No bus, no shuttle, no real taxis are available at night… you are in their hands and they know it. They’ll agree on a price between them depending on where you are going and mob whoever is willing to take you there for less. After a fair share of shouting and negotiating, we found the weak link, took him to a less crowded spot and agreed on a 60.000 IDR taxi ride (3.60€) instead of 90k. Too tired for more negotiation…
The Dalton Hotel is a huge one. Meant for conventions and events, but empty and cold the rest of the time. We basically woke up the night shift guy, who couldnt speak a word of english (and was barely able to write down our room number). He gave us a smoking room, where we would sleep just 4 and a half hours, not without plenty of noise from the main road… Not something we’d really recommend. Read all about our accomodation in Indonesia in this post (coming soon).
Sometimes we’d rather be in a small hostel with baraley any facilities than in one of these impersonal and cold hotels. Location was convenient though.


7am wake up call and quick shower before heading to the bus station.

The morning concierge could at least understand that we needed a taxi to the bus station. However he says price will be just 10.000 IDR (0.60€) (the terminal is really close and we could have even walked there if it wasn’t still pouring rain) but by the time we arrive at the station, the driver asks for 50.000 IDR (3€)… not liking Makassar at all so far. Really looking forward to getting out of there. We settle for 15.000 IDR (1€).

RESPONSIBLE TRAVEL. We know, 3€ mean nothing to us and you may think it’s not something to argue about… But as we said in previous posts, we believe that responsible travel is also about no accepting scams.

If you are told a price beforehand, you are not helping anyone (only the corrupt) by agreeing to a higher price. They will do it to the next one and so on…

If you intend to go to Rantepao, the bus terminal you are looking for is Daya Terminal. There are others in town, so make sure the driver understands well.

Once in Daya Yerminal, they’ll make you pay just to enter it! This time we are not willing to argue for 2.000 IDR (0.12€), but it doesn’t sound right either. The station is still waking up and we are the first ones there. Kids are washing themselves in the puddles while their families start setting up their stuff to sell to tourists.

There are five or six companies that’ll take you to Rantepao (Metro Permai, Litha, Liman, Bintang Prima…). You can either pick one or ask the respective sellers about their services and price. Make sure you choose well, since you’ll be on that bus for almost 10 hours!

After asking a couple of the ticket sellers, and since we’ve read good reviews about it on other blogs, we choose Bintang Prima bus for 150.000 IDR (9€) per person.

There is a small store in the station, although they may not even know that they are «a store», where you’d be able to find some cookies and a bottle of water. Spare yourself the coffee, trust us…

We take the first Bintang Prima bus to Rantepao unsure if it’s the right one. It’s not easy to communicate very well with any of the people in the terminal. The bus has very comfortable seats, with independent suspension and reclining almost to a horizontal position. AC is full on, so bring warm clothes with you. And ear plugs come in handy too! since the radio will be blasting.

However, something doesn’t seem right, and the bus keeps stoping in random places without having even left Makassar. After just 40 minutes, one of these stops turns into an hour of waiting while the driver and his friends eat some noodles and look at us really amused from outside the bus. Then, they tell us we need to get off and on to another bus. Mechanical issues? Doesn’t look like it, but we’ll never know. The new bus has some more tourists on it, which makes us feel like this is the right one.

It’s full but with no loud music or crazy AC, so we are happy with the change. We get to meet a brazilian crew working on a reforestation project in Lombok, a bunch of happy locals going to see their families, europeans full of curiosity about Sulawesi… We’d say that the 10 hour ride is much better than a 5min taxi ride in Makassar!

The landscapes will vary a lot. From dense jungle to tall mountains, this island is beautiful. The villages are lively, with brightly colored houses, and we even run into a massive celebration that blocks the road for a good half hour. One of the locals in the bus tells us there is an election, and the winner seems to be the people’s favorite. Everyone is happy. Sulawesi looks a lot better than the first impression of Makassar.



…and Sarah’s place, the Sulawesi Castle!

After a bit more than 10 hours, already dark and late, we reach the heart of the Torajan region, Rantepao!

If you show the driver your hotel address, he’ll let you know when to get down. Ours is not one of the very known hotels… so we need to show him on the map where it is. As soon as we step out of the bus, a few guys introduce themselves and offer us their services as a guide for the next day. We just ask them how to get to our place, and one of them takes us there while trying to land a job. No harrasing here, only good vibes so far.

Our young friends takes us to what looks like a strange looking castle-like house. It’s closed and looks to be still under construction. Before we start wondering if we are in the right place, the door opens and we meet our amazing host for the next few days: Sarah!

We’ve arrived to the Sulawesi Castle. We can’t recommend it enough, so head to or to our accomodation in Indonesia post (coming soon) to read more.

Our room is huge and brand new. We learn from Sarah that she is just starting this business and she lives there too. Her attitude and happiness are contagious, but mostly we need something to eat. She recommends three places for dinner: The House, a warung by the main road, Pias Poppies, the most known hotel in this area, and the Pison hotel, all within walking distance. The House is closed, Pias are not serving dinners this late, and Pison looks like a ghost hotel, but we must look exhausted and hungry enough for the girl at reception to ask the kitchen if they could cook something for us. Dining room all to ourselves, we have the best noodle soup we’ve ever tried for only 60.000 IDR (3.60€)!! Is it because we are starving? I don’t know but I could eat ten of those bowls!
Satisfied, we go back to our castle and without even unpacking we go to bed still not knowing the amazing place we are in, and the awesome things we’ll witness in the next few days!

Read all about our 3 days in Tana Toraja in the next post!

Read all about our three days adventure in Tana Toraja in our next post! To this day, we are still in awe of what we saw there. Such an interesting people and culture!


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